The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

March 21, 2011
Ziad Abbas at UW-Madison

4 – 5:30 pm
Room 336, Ingraham Hall
UW-Madison [Map]

Ziad Abbas will speak on “Palestine amid the Arab World Uprising: Facts on the Ground and Prospects for the Future”. A Palestinian whose family was uprooted from Zakariah in 1948, Ziad Abbas will discuss his experiences growing up under Israeli Occupation. He will discuss the Palestinian experience both past and present, and examine the impact of the popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and beyond on the future of the Palestinian people.

Sponsored by the UW Division of International Studies. Co-sponsored by Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

March 20, 2011
Annual Rachel Corrie Dinner

Cash bar/socializing 5:30 pm
Dinner 6:00 pm
Program 7 – 9 pm
Bunky’s Cafe
2425 Atwood Avenue
Madison [Map]

Film: One Family in Gaza
Speaker: Ziad Abbas of the Middle East Children’s Alliance

This year’s dinner will be a benefit for the MAIA clean water project of the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA). The program will feature a talk by MECA’s Associate Director Ziad Abbas and the Madison premier of the new short film One Family in Gaza.

Ziad Abbas is from Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank. He offers listeners his own experience growing up under Israeli Occupation, along with sharp political analysis and inspiration to take action. He will discuss Palestine’s water crisis in the broader context of ongoing displacement, military occupation, and the current political events in the Arab world.

He will tell you about the Middle East Children’s Alliance’s Maia Project, which provides clean, safe drinking water for children in Palestine by installing water purification and desalination units in schools and kindergartens. To date, more than twenty-seven units have been installed serving nearly 30,000 children thanks to the fund raising efforts of groups and individuals throughout the United States, including one provided last year to the Tuyor Al Jena (Birds of Paradise) Kindergarten in Rafah by the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project. MRSCP has now raised over 80 percent of the funding for a second, larger system at the UN Rafah Girls Elementary School.

One Family in Gaza tells the story of the Kamal and Wafaa Awajah family after the 2008 – 2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza. Palestinians in Gaza are depicted either as violent terrorists or as helpless victims. The Awajah family challenges both portrayals. Through one family’s story, the larger tragedy of Gaza is exposed, and the courage and resilience of its people shines through.

The dinner menu will include a vegetarian stew on rice with house salad, falafel, hummus, and babaganouj. Bunky’s is also generously donating coffee, tea and baklava desert. There will be a cash bar beginning at 5:30 pm.

Cost is $15 per person or $25 per couple. Please RSVP by Wednesday, March 16 to Donna Wallbaum at dwallbaum (at) or phone 235-7870.

Rachel Corrie was killed in Rafah on March 16, 2003 by two Israeli soldiers who crushed her beneath the blade of a Caterpillar bulldozer while she attempted to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home. Please join us once again as we honor her memory by helping the children she sought to protect.

As always, we thank you for your support, and we hope to see you there!

February 24, 2011
Talk: "Uprisings: from the Middle East to the Midwest"

Amy Goodman in Madison

Democracy Now! Executive Producer Amy Goodman and Senior Producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous will speak on “Uprisings: from the Middle East to the Midwest” at the Orpheum Theater, 216 State Street, Madison at 7pm. The event is a benefit for WORT 89.9FM and in solidarity with Wisconsin workers.

Sharif Abdel Kouddous has just returned from Cairo, Egypt, where he has been producing groundbreaking reports on the Jan. 25th revolution. This will be his first public talk since arriving back in the US.

Feb. 23, 2011
from Democracy Now! Blog

As many as 80,000 people marched to the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison on Saturday as part of an ongoing protest against newly elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to not just badger the state’s public employee unions, but to break them. The Madison uprising follows on the heels of those in the Middle East. A sign held by one university student, an Iraq War vet, read, “I went to Iraq and came home to Egypt?”

Another read, “Walker: Mubarak of the Midwest.” Likewise, a photo has circulated in Madison of a young man at a rally in Cairo, with a sign reading, “Egypt supports Wisconsin workers: One world, one pain.” Meanwhile, Libyans continue to defy a violent government crackdown against masses seeking to oust longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and more than 10,000 marched Tuesday in Ohio to oppose Republican Gov. John Kasich’s attempted anti-union legislative putsch.

Egypt’s uprising and its implications for Palestine

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 29 January 2011

We are in the middle of a political earthquake in the Arab world and the ground has still not stopped shaking. To make predictions when events are so fluid is risky, but there is no doubt that the uprising in Egypt — however it ends — will have a dramatic impact across the region and within Palestine.

If the Mubarak regime falls, and is replaced by one less tied to Israel and the United States, Israel will be a big loser. As Aluf Benn commented in the Israeli daily Haaretz, “The fading power of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government leaves Israel in a state of strategic distress. Without Mubarak, Israel is left with almost no friends in the Middle East; last year, Israel saw its alliance with Turkey collapse” (“Without Egypt, Israel will be left with no friends in Mideast,” 29 January 2011).

Indeed, Benn observes, “Israel is left with two strategic allies in the region: Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.” But what Benn does not say is that these two “allies” will not be immune either.

Over the past few weeks I was in Doha examining the Palestine Papers leaked to Al Jazeera. These documents underscore the extent to which the split between the US-backed Palestinian Authority in Ramallah headed by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction, on the one hand, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, on the other — was a policy decision of regional powers: the United States, Egypt and Israel. This policy included Egypt’s strict enforcement of the siege of Gaza.

If the Mubarak regime goes, the United States will lose enormous leverage over the situation in Palestine, and Abbas’ PA will lose one of its main allies against Hamas.

Already discredited by the extent of its collaboration and capitulation exposed in the Palestine Papers, the PA will be weakened even further. With no credible “peace process” to justify its continued “security coordination” with Israel, or even its very existence, the countdown may well begin for the PA’s implosion. Even the US and EU support for the repressive PA police-state-in-the-making may no longer be politically tenable. Hamas may be the immediate beneficiary, but not necessarily in the long term. For the first time in years we are seeing broad mass movements that, while they include Islamists, are not necessarily dominated or controlled by them.

There is also a demonstration effect for Palestinians: the endurance of the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes has been based on the perception that they were strong, as well as their ability to terrorize parts of their populations and co-opt others. The relative ease with which Tunisians threw off their dictator, and the speed with which Egypt, and perhaps Yemen, seem to be going down the same road, may well send a message to Palestinians that neither Israel’s nor the PA’s security forces are as indomitable as they appear. Indeed, Israel’s “deterrence” already took a huge blow from its failure to defeat Hizballah in Lebanon in 2006, and Hamas in Gaza during the winter 2008-09 attacks.

As for Abbas’s PA, never has so much international donor money been spent on a security force with such poor results. The open secret is that without the Israeli military occupying the West Bank and besieging Gaza (with the Mubarak regime’s help), Abbas and his praetorian guard would have fallen long ago. Built on the foundations of a fraudulent peace process, the US, EU and Israel with the support of the decrepit Arab regimes now under threat by their own people, have constructed a Palestinian house of cards that is unlikely to remain standing much longer.

This time the message may be that the answer is not more military resistance but rather more people power and a stronger emphasis on popular protests. Today, Palestinians form at least half the population in historic Palestine — Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip combined. If they rose up collectively to demand equal rights, what could Israel do to stop them? Israel’s brutal violence and lethal force has not stopped regular demonstrations in West Bank villages including Bilin and Beit Ommar.

Israel must fear that if it responds to any broad uprising with brutality, its already precarious international support could start to evaporate as quickly as Mubarak’s. The Mubarak regime, it seems, is undergoing rapid “delegitimization.” Israeli leaders have made it clear that such an implosion of international support scares them more than any external military threat. With the power shifting to the Arab people and away from their regimes, Arab governments may not be able to remain as silent and complicit as they have for years as Israel oppresses Palestinians.

As for Jordan, change is already underway. I witnessed a protest of thousands of people in downtown Amman yesterday. These well-organized and peaceful protests, called for by a coalition of Islamist and leftist opposition parties, have been held now for weeks in cities around the country. The protesters are demanding the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Samir al-Rifai, dissolution of the parliament elected in what were widely seen as fraudulent elections in November, new free elections based on democratic laws, economic justice, an end to corruption and cancelation of the peace treaty with Israel. There were strong demonstrations of solidarity for the people of Egypt.

None of the parties at the demonstration called for the kind of revolutions that happened in Tunisia and Egypt to occur in Jordan, and there is no reason to believe such developments are imminent. But the slogans heard at the protests are unprecedented in their boldness and their direct challenge to authority. Any government that is more responsive to the wishes of the people will have to review its relationship with Israel and the United States.

Only one thing is certain today: whatever happens in the region, the people’s voices can no longer be ignored.

February 20, 2011
Reception with Medea Benjamin of Code Pink

1:30 – 3:30 pm
RSVP to dwallbaum (at)

Afternoon dessert reception with Medea Benjamin of Code Pink. Come and help us raise funds for our second Gaza water filters project, meet Medea and discuss her experiences in Gaza. This event is at a private residence in Madison. To attend, please RSVP to dwallbaum (at) or call 239-6005. Desserts and beverages will be served. A donation for our next Maia Project water filter for the UNRWA Elementary Girl’s School in Rafah Refugee Camp will be greatly appreciated.

January 12, 2011
Israel's Apartheid Wall and the Fight to Stop It

Gal Lugossi will also be a guest on WORT Radio’s A Public Affair with host Esty Dinur, beginning at 12 noon on Wednesday, January 12.

Humanities, Room 1651
455 N Park St [Map]
7:00 pm

Israeli conscientious objector and activist Gal Lugossi is a member of the Shministim war resisters. She is on a national speaking tour for the Anarchists Against the Wall action group.

Anarchists Against the Wall has been prominent in the Palestinian-led campaign of mass civil disobedience against the wall. Ms. Lugossi has spent time in the village of Bil’in, whose people have led the struggle against the wall with weekly demonstrations for the last six years, and where just this week another Palestinian activist was killed by tear gas.

Ms.Lugossi also belongs to the Boycott from Within group and volunteers for the Coalition of Women for Peace and the Who Profits project.

Co-sponsored by American Jews for a Just Peace — Madison, Madison Infoshop, and Madison-Rafah Sister City Project. Funded in part by the Associated Students of Madison (ASM does not necessarily endorse the beliefs or actions of this organization).

Free and open to the public. For more information contact (608) 262-9036 or e-mail rafahsistercity (at)

Israeli Soldiers Kill Palestinian, 65, in His Bedroom

Subhiya Awad al-Qawasmeh placed a picture of her husband, Omar, where he was killed. (Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times)


Afterward they asked for his identity card

ISABEL KERSHNER, The New York Times, January 7, 2011

HEBRON, West Bank — Israeli soldiers shot and killed an unarmed 65-year-old Palestinian man in his bedroom in this tense city early Friday, in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity.

The man’s wife said he was sleeping and she was praying when soldiers burst into the apartment before dawn, entered the bedroom and immediately opened fire. Afterward they asked her for his identity card. She gave her account a few hours later, standing next to the bed, whose mattress, sheets and pillows were soaked in blood. The headboard, an adjacent wardrobe and the ceiling were also spattered with blood and bits of what appeared to be brain matter.

The Israeli military expressed regret but offered no explanation beyond saying that it had been carrying out an arrest operation. It said the West Bank division commander had been ordered to carry out a speedy investigation, with conclusions to be presented as early as next week.

The soldiers were apparently looking for the dead man’s nephew, a Hamas militant who was one of six released from a Palestinian Authority prison on Thursday. He was staying in an apartment on the floor below the slain man’s and was rearrested by the Israeli military soon after the killing. Four of the other released militants were arrested by the Israelis overnight as well.

Friday’s killing was the third death in the West Bank in a week for which the Palestinians blamed the Israelis. Coming after a period of relative calm, the deaths have added to fears of an escalation at a time when Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are stalled. After noon prayers on Friday, the alleyways around the man’s home seethed as hundreds escorted the body from a nearby mosque for burial, chanting, “In blood and spirit, we will redeem you, O martyr!”

Initial reports on Israeli radio suggested that the slain man, Omar al-Qawasmeh, may have run at the soldiers, but the blood soaking the bed and dotting the walls seemed to belie that. His wife, Subhiya Awad al-Qawasmeh, said that the soldiers fired at her husband’s head and upper body. She said they thought he was the nephew, Wael Bitar.

“They came to kill Wael,” she said.

The killing also heightened tensions between the authority, which the West backs, and Hamas, its militant Islamist rival. Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority of collaborating with Israel in the case and bearing joint responsibility for the man’s death. The authority has been reining in Hamas activists and militants in the West Bank since the Islamist group, which won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, seized full control of Gaza a year later. There, Hamas has detained loyalists of Fatah, the dominant party of the authority.

In this case, the authority had just released Mr. Bitar and five others who had been on a hunger strike. The Israeli military said that Mr. Bitar was the assistant of the man who planned a suicide bombing in the southern Israeli town of Dimona in February 2008, in which an Israeli woman was killed. The military also said that Mr. Bitar planned several other suicide attacks that were thwarted, and that he had been arrested by Palestinian forces in September 2008. Mr. Bitar’s wife, Sanaa, said he had been on a hunger strike for 43 days to protest his continued detention without charge or trial. She said that a Palestinian Authority court had ordered his release a while ago. She, too, blamed the Palestinian Authority for Mr. Qawasmeh’s death.

Palestinian officials in the West Bank said such statements only served to remove responsibility from Israel, and suggested that the six had been kept in Palestinian custody for their own safety. Gen. Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, said that the authority had made it clear before their release that Hamas would have to bear responsibility for protecting them from Israeli forces, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

The other recent deaths include the case of a Palestinian woman, 36, who died last Saturday after inhaling tear gas on the sidelines of a protest the day before in the West Bank, according to her family and Palestinian medical officials.

Initially, Israeli military officials anonymously raised questions about whether those accounts were fabricated; Friday brought the first official comment. The army commander in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon, was quoted by Haaretz as saying the woman probably died not from tear gas but from other medical “complications, combined with problems in the medical care she received at the Palestinian hospital.”

On Sunday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man as he approached a checkpoint in the northern West Bank. The military said that he was holding a glass bottle, and that he had approached the checkpoint in an unauthorized lane and failed to heed orders to stop.

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